Huskies Tap Hawaiian Punch -- The Huskies' Hawaiian Football Pipeline Goes Both Ways. Coach Jim Lambright Has Found Players Such As Linebacker Ink Aleaga. And Hawaiian Players Have Discovered A Place For A Mainland College Career.
They come from a place most call paradise. There, a winter day is a summer day. There, the air is rarely sticky, but the rice always is.
There, Spam is an entree. There, strong men wear pretty skirts. There, tanning booths are shameful things. On the islands, no one diets, no one worries and no one hurries.
One of the islands' most celebrated activities is football, which like many things in Hawaii, was imported. But they play as though it was their own, with reverence, with attitude. More boys play football than surf. On a football field, it is quite acceptable to worry and hurry.
"Football is the most supported sport there," University of Washington lineman Pat Kesi said with allegiance and indignation. Many of the schools that recruited him, he said, backed out because "they didn't think a Hawaiian kid could play ball the way they wanted."
To some, linebacker Ink Aleaga was a liability. He attended Honolulu's Maryknoll High School, a school so small that it and four other schools formed one football team. Only Hawaii and Washington recruited him.
A sophomore, coaches already describe Aleaga in all-Pac-10 proportions. He had 15 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown Saturday against Arizona State - a feat that made him one of the Pac-10's four players of the week.
His success and the ascension of sophomore safety Ikaika Malloe - he was recruited only by junior colleges and is now Lawyer Milloy's backup - have helped break the perception that you can't recruit speed and skill from Hawaii.
"You can't say that anymore," Kesi said. "You have to respect Hawaii ball."
It is an evolved brand of football, one that produces athletes who can play the modern game's spread offenses and pressure defenses. Hawaii is no longer a state that produces only linemen.
"There's a real variety," Coach Jim Lambright said. "It's been a very productive state for us. I recruited that state for 10 years as an assistant coach. When I became head coach, I made sure I kept that one."
Washington listed seven players from Hawaii on its first roster this season, more than any other team in the Pac-10 Conference. Another Husky, Mike Ewaliko, attended Seattle's Highline High School but was born in Honolulu.
All say that Hawaii is an extricable part of them. Most will return someday. But all call Seattle home.
"When I'm in Hawaii, I catch myself saying, `I have to go home,' " Pat Kesi said. "And home is Seattle."
Like a lot of kids from Hawaii, Kesi was afraid to stay on the islandsbecause he was afraid to leave.
"I led a sheltered life," Kesi said. "I had to get out, to see if I could really live life away from the island."
Both Malloe and Aleaga understand the feeling. They had to get away from home, they said. Seattle was their quest, their adventure.
For the reasons Seattle is so different - the weather, the food, the language, the attitude - they came here. Seattle is also somewhat familiar, a West Coast city with a markedly Asian influence. And considerably more affordable than Honolulu. For some of those reasons, Kesi said, a strong Hawaiian community exists in the Seattle area. At the UW, 372 students are from Hawaii.
"Word gets around in Hawaii that this is a good place to live," Kesi said.
Paradise, so perfect in many ways, is limited - a condition that has driven some off the island.
"It just gets old," said Ewaliko. "When I go back there, nothing seems to change. It's like time stands still. The same people are working in the same places.
"I change my mind every week. When I'm there, I'm sick of Hawaii. When I'm here, I miss being in Hawaii. It's a lot faster, more aggressive out here. Hawaii has a very family-oriented culture."
Ewaliko moved to Seattle when he was 10, after his parents divorced.
"My mom didn't want me to become a beach bum like my older brothers," he said. "It didn't work. When I came up here, the addiction got worse." Ewaliko kept surfing. He bought a wetsuit and studied the swells off Washington's coast. When football season ends, he waits for the first sunny weekend.
Ewaliko first wore sandals and shorts to school when he moved to Seattle. Classmates thought he was strange. He spoke differently, a dialect called "pidgin English," which he has lost almost completely. The more recent arrivals from Hawaii have not lost their inflections.
"When I say something fast," Kesi said, "people will look at me and ask `what did you say?' "
When the players return to Hawaii, their tans washed out by Seattle's cloud cover, dialects sterilized by an aural diet of news-anchor English, the folks back home notice.
"They tell me, `you sound so white,' " Aleaga said, laughing.
The biggest cultural hurdle was and still is the food.
"I had to get used to a lot of hamburgers, potatoes and rice that didn't stick," Kesi said. "And I couldn't order fruit punch at McDonald's."
Sticky rice comes with every meal in Hawaii. Rice and chili. Rice and beef stew. Rice and spaghetti. Rice and barbecue chicken. Throw in a side of macaroni salad and you have a classic version of what Hawaiians call a "plate lunch."
The Huskies from Hawaii dearly miss those beloved plate lunches, as common back home as burgers and fries are here. In Hawaii, portions are invariably bigger. Kesi said he lost 10 pounds his first week in Seattle.
The bread-and-potatoes culture of the mainland has made it necessary for Kesi and the others to buy rice cookers, standard equipment for any transplant from Hawaii.
"Just give me a rice cooker and a can of Spam, and I'm set," Williams said.
Spam is a staple of the Hawaiian diet. To eat it straight out of the can is unthinkable. It must be fried until crisp.
For Spam cravings, a quick cure waits at any grocery store. For other cravings, it is not so easy. Not for lau lau, Malloe's favorite, a mixture of salted butterfish and pork steamed in taro leaves. Not for poke, a spicy salad of raw tuna.
Occasionally, a trip to an Asian grocery store will take care of cravings for dried mangoes, dried fish, salted and dried plums, rice crackers, or musubi, balls of rice wrapped in seaweed.
Malloe and the Kesi brothers are suppliers of another island import, lava-lava skirts, the brightly colored, floral-print wrap skirts that are so popular after the two-a-day practices of August. Current and former Huskies - Sekou Wiggs, Jason Chorak, Napoleon Kaufman, Eric Battle, Beno Bryant, Cedric White, Jim Nevelle, Pete Pierson and Lincoln Kennedy - swear by them. They are easy to put on, comfortable in the heat.
"At first it was funny to see a 300-pound guy wearing a skirt," Wiggs said. "But I'm not going to argue with the guy."
---------------------------------------------------. The Hawaiian connection. . Huskies from Hawaii. . Pos. Player Status. . DT Mike Ewaliko # Starter. . OG Pat Kesi Starter. . LB Ink Aleaga Starter. . FS Ikaika Malloe Backup. . OT Petrocelli Kesi Scholarship. . C Opu Seminavage Scholarship. . DE Stuart Williams Walk-on. . LB Meki Pei Quit. .
# - Born in Honolulu but attended high school in Seattle.
. Hawaiians in the Pac-10. . School Players. . Washington 7. . Oregon 6. . Oregon State 4. . UCLA 2. . California 1. . Arizona 1. . USC 0. . Stanford 0. . Arizona State 0. . Washington St. 0. .
- From preseason rosters.
- Not including Ewaliko.
Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.